By Tony Jimenez

NEWPORT, Wales (Reuters) - Rickie Fowler, the youngest player in this week's United States team, is still pinching himself after earning a Ryder Cup debut at the age of 21.

"I didn't expect two years out of college to be on the PGA Tour and the Ryder Cup," the American told reporters on Wednesday.

"I was planning on a little bit of a longer process but it's all worked out well. This is right where I want to be."

As pouring rain at Celtic Manor evoked memories of the 2006 Ryder Cup in Ireland where the players spent all week waddling through soaked fairways, Fowler admitted the biennial team event did not occupy too many of his thoughts at the start of this year.

"I wasn't really thinking too much about the Ryder Cup, I was more focused on keeping my tour card," said the youngster who always wears orange on the final day of a tournament in honor of Oklahoma State University, his old college.

"I knew it was a possibility (to make the team) but I knew I had a long way to go."

Five top-10 finishes on this year's U.S. PGA Tour persuaded captain Corey Pavin to make Fowler one of his four wildcard picks but the Ryder Cup rookie believes the other players may also have had a say in his call-up.

"To be around a group of guys that had an influence on putting me on the team, or wanting me on the team, makes it a close group of guys," said Fowler. "I guess in a way it's a team-picked team.

"Being in the team room, watching the guys playing ping pong, messing around at dinner, we're getting closer and closer each day."

Fowler seems to be having a whale of a time getting to know household names like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson a little better.

"The guys are all very easy going," he said. "I sit there watching Tiger and Phil play ping pong against each other, and then all of the other guys playing ping pong.

"I think so far Matt Kuchar might have the upper hand but don't tell anyone I said that."

(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)